Customer Service Part 2 Private Sector

 It can’t be avoided I have to go into the City; the Mecca that is St David’s Shopping Centre to be precise. Three places; three purchases and I am out of there almost before I have arrived. That is the plan. As I leave the kitchen I remember to grab one of the fabric bags to avoid having to pay 5p for a carrier bag; I have a variety of these items all of which reside in the kitchen rather than more helpfully in the car.

 First stop John Lewis. As I walk towards the lift I see a most bizarre sign on the wall (see above) is there no limit to the things John Lewis can offer? The English language is a strange one with seemingly many ways to use the vast range of words available.  Moving on to the lift a gentleman pushing his wife in a wheelchair spies me and pauses blocking the lift door giving me time to catch up. Terribly kind but I can’t help but hope there isn’t an accident involving her being squished by closing doors; I’d feel awfully responsible as I smothered a snigger! Years ago in South Africa my then 6 year old brother got stuck in a lift only just managing to pull his little arm out as the doors failed to register his then tiny limb; the experience scarred him for years!

 One of the downsides of being distinctive in appearance is one can’t deceive shop assistants; not that I indulge in that kind of behaviour but the point being I couldn’t pretend I was someone else even if I tried. A couple of months ago I bought a birthday present for a friend, an amber ring, even remembering to get a gift receipt but then for some reason I decided something else was more appropriate and never gave it to said friend. So when I return the item to John Lewis the attractive red head remembered me; instead of saying I’d made a mistake I blame the unnamed friend saying she hadn’t liked the colour of the amber (green rather than well amber)! I must have been having a moment when I made the purchase as £72 is refunded onto my credit card – the assistant comments that she remembers thinking I was being generous whilst wondering why she didn’t have friends like me! Oh that life was that simple gorgeous girl (or perhaps I mean gorgeous simple girl); ironically she has the perfect skin tone to complement the green amber ring I have just returned.

Now that was the straight forward errand completed I ponder on where to head next; a certain purveyor of pleasure on Queen Street or a well know lingerie establishment somewhere in St David’s 1. Both seem an awful long way apart; sighing I decide to walk to the furthest point first in case I run out of energy (or inclination) on the way if I do it in reverse order. To avoid your blushes I shall skate around the specifics referring to the transactions in the most general of terms; so please be aware you may have to read between the lines! You have been warned ‘I shall say this only once’!

I have previously talked of the perennial itch that afflicts even the most super human of us mere mortals; in my experience ones marital or relationship status has no bearing upon this. The itch must be scratched; frustration must be relieved; and the pain – pleasure tension can be a joyful experience albeit isolating in its fleeting nature. A weakening of the muscles and the nerves necessitates the augmenting of the experience with the additional of shall we say intimate accessories with a not insignificant price tag. The customer service at this high street establishment is shall we say spot on; discrete whilst being informative, eye contact tends not to be made and I have nothing but respect for the staff training programme! I do hope you are keeping up dear readers.

Normally this is the perfect on line purchase allowing one to browse at leisure and linger over the product specification without being observed. But as I am already in the vicinity I might as well go there in person. Concentration is required as my balance is especially poor today and it’s not the kind of place one wants to take a tumble. Heaven knows the image of me falling into a heap of carefully arranged ‘rabbits’ of the rampant variety – (and no they do not appear to have myxomatosis although the twitching of the ears could lead one to make this diagnosis) – is not one I wish to entertain! Think Duracell bunnies without the little drums to beat.

Due to a recent product failure (or more accurately products plural failure) I am simply seeking a straight replacement. Of course the range has been upgraded; refreshed and renewed to the extent the desired ‘hit and run’ purchase is not possible. After initially declining assistance a more assertive managerial type grins cheekily at me and says ‘I’ll get X – (I didn’t catch her name as I was attempting to make myself invisible at the point the sound hits my ear drums) – she’ll help you pick out the perfect one for you’. Before I can do anything more than avoid losing my balance the knowledgeable sale assistant is at my elbow. No I think there is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about; the suffragettes fought to get women the right to self determination and that goes way beyond the vote!

Fortunately I have selected the 2012 model of my previous appliance (which friend with benefits points out was made in 2008 – bloody engineers and their liking for patents and product codes). ‘Great you just need your wipes and your lube and you’re done’ the assistant says rather too gleefully for my liking! I decline the batteries and other extras saying I’m good in terms of those supplies. For which read ‘how quickly can I pay and get away with my (remaining) dignity intact’! At the till I decline a carrier bag whipping out my fabric Hay Festival one which is actually a little too small to accommodate the over packaged item; sure the environment deserves a smaller box?

As I turn to leave I am faced with a tiny older woman holding up a pink and black lacy basque; short sighted she has to lower her glasses down her nose to read the price tag which rather unfortunately gives her the image of sniffing the item. Smothering a snigger I look at the ground thereby avoiding making eye contact with the even older man on a mobility scooter accompanying her; poor bloke looks weary as he smile weakly as she wafts a suspender strap in his face! Just goes to show we all have an itch needing attention on occasions.

Crossing the street I make my way to Bravissimo to attend to another worn out item. Again this establishment has a unique staff training approach; no touching or tape measures are involved when fitting a lady. Accommodating as ever the manager arranges for a ‘fitter’ to pop upstairs to attend the customer. After about 10 minutes a young woman dressed in the style of sexy secretary bobs towards me saying ‘Frances?’ Rising to my full height slowly to both avoid wobbling and conceal the contents of my recycled fabric bag gripped firmly under my arm I make my way into the changing room. There is something quite disarming about having someone staring at one in ones underwear intent on examining the fit without touching you. She adjusts the straps and asks me to ‘adjust the position of the breast’ which I compliantly do. Turns out the size is fine but the fabric is tired or perhaps in an advanced state of relaxation. Off she pops to get some items for me to try on having ascertained what I’m looking for; I am a tad old fashioned preferring my under garments to remain just that i.e. preferring not to be able to see the lace embellishment through my top.

The look of horror on my face when she hands me a black lacy business with cream stitching and embellishment negated the need for words! Why oh why couldn’t I conceal my feelings; poor girl now looks crestfallen and I over compensate with a stream of meaningless consciousness. Five garments later I leave with two exact replacements feeling like I’ve lost an hour I’ll never get back! I never worked out if I had a curvy or super curvy shape but that would have required rather more commitment than I was prepared to give on the day. The items were wrapped in tissue paper and handed to me to furtive slip into the fabric bag without anyone spotting previous purchases.

Now we’re on the home run with all purchases completed until I walk pass Thorntons. My need to reward myself with Viennese Truffles is now somehow urgent so I pop in. Next to the object of my desire are small square chocolate blocks 3 for £5 and they are designed to go into cardboard packages which can be posted with three first class stamps. Perfect little thank you gifts I think and buy six. Attempting to carry 2 bags of truffles (suckered into yet another offer); 6 bars of chocolate and 3 card things is a bit of a challenge on 2 crutches whilst gripping the elicit previous purchases under my arm! The muscle groups are simply not desired to accomplish these competing demands simultaneously but I just make it albeit throwing them at the cashier.

All going swimmingly until the assistant asks if I want the extra cardboard flat packed envelope for posting – accepting the offer she asks if I’d like her to fold them for me. At this point the queue is building and I’m not making a competent job of putting things in my bag; the cardboard rabbit hutch keeps popping up! In the end I say ‘oh don’t worry I’ll do the rest at home’. Scurrying out into the lunchtime crowd I lean on the shop window and stuff the contents as far as I can before heading back to the car.

On the way to Chekov later that day I regale my friend with the story to which she laughingly says ‘Ann Summers, Bravissimo and Thornton’s sounds like the ingredients for a good weekend’!

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